Previewing Clemson's special teams

Spring practice begins in just two days and CUTigers has its final spring position preview for you right here.

Marcus Gilchrist, Michael Wade, Richard Jackson, Jamie Harper, Matt Skinner, Terrance Ashe - In 2010, Gilchrist led Clemson in punt and kick return yards (233, 639).

Wade served as the holder on field goals in extra-points for the last four seasons and was also a one of the leaders of the special teams unit. Last season, he had seven special team tackles.

As a senior, Jackson punted once for 42 yards and missed two field goals.

Harper had four kick returns for 43 yards.

Skinner snapped on punts and kickoffs but was moved only to the snapper on punts midway through the 2010 season.

Though he missed the final two games of the season, Ashe finished tied for second with 10 special teams tackles.

Dawson Zimmerman (Sr.) - Zimmerman had the best season of his career as a junior, during which he averaged 42.7 yards per punt - third best in the ACC.

Marquan Jones (Sr.) - Because of Ellington's injury, when spring practice gets underway, Jones will be the top returning kick returner. He had four returns for 62 yards, with a long of 23.

Spencer Benton (RS Jr.) - Benton has handled kickoff duties for the last two seasons. In 2010, he put three of his 64 kicks into the end zone for a touchback. Opponents averaged 20.4 yards per return.

Jaron Brown (RS Jr.) - He returned three punts for 52 yards, with a long of 41. Brown also had 10 special team tackles.

Andre Ellington (RS Jr.) - Ellington was second on the team with 238 kick return yards in 2010 and was the only Tiger to return a kickoff for a touchdown.

Jonathan Willard (RS Jr.) - Willard led Clemson's special teams with 13 tackles in 2010.

Phillip Fagjenbaum (RS So.) - Midway through the 2010 season, the walk-on began snapping on field goals and extra-points.

Chandler Catanzaro (RS So.) - It was an up and down season for Catanzaro, the walk-on hit 14 of 22 field goals, with a long of 48 yards. He also hit all 34 extra-point attempts.

Donny McElveen (RS So.) - Backup holder behind Wade last season. McElveen is expected to take over as the holder this spring.

DeAndre Hopkins (So.) - Hopkins returned two punts for 33 yards, with a long of 31.

Martin Jenkins (So.) - He didn't register a return during his first season at Clemson, but Jenkins could figure into the mix this spring.

Joe Craig (RS Fr.) - Currently the fastest player on the team, Craig could return kicks and/or punts.

Danny Pearman will take over as special teams coordinator in place of Andre Powell, who was let go at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Pearman coached the special teams at Alabama on the 1992 National Championship team and served as a special teams assistant while on staff at Virginia Tech.

Among Clemson's biggest concerns heading into 2011, Catanzaro will handle the field goals this spring, but Benton could make a push for reps. Nothing will be certain until 2011 signee Ammon Lakip arrives to competition later this summer.

For much of his first two years at Clemson, Zimmerman was a "practice field All-American," according to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. Zimmerman's turn for the better can be credited to the improvement in catching the snap away from his body with his hands, not in his stomach or chest.

Clemson lost another solid return man with the departure of Gilchrist. The year before, it was C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. Hopkins and Brown showed promise as punt returners, but they combined for just five in 2010. With Ellington still recovering from foot surgery, the kick return job is wide-open.

Skinner's spotty snapping never really came to light until last season's Auburn game. Even after he was relegated to just punts, there were moments when he struggled. Fajgenbaum enters the spring as the only long snapper with game experience. McElveen is on scheduled to take over as the holder on field goals.

1. Pearman's first-year as coordinator at Clemson - what changes are made and how does he impact each unit?

2. The Catman returns for round two - is he ready to take his consistency in practice to game day?

3. Who will be returning punts and kicks?

4. The rest of the place kicking operation—snapper and holder.

Outside of Ellington, Craig emerges as the best option in the kickoff return game. He'll be listed as the starter heading into the fall.


Kickoff Returner
1. Joe Craig
2. Marquan Jones

Punt Returner
1. DeAndre Hopkins
2. Jaron Brown

Place Kicker
Chandler Catanzaro

Kickoff Specialist
Spencer Benton

Dawson Zimmerman

Long Snapper
Phillip Fajgenbaum

Donny McElveen Top Stories